Dani is a wealth of vegan knowledge and fitspiration. She’s a figure competitor and champion, as well as a coach with qualifications in plant based nutrition. She’s also the co-founder of Vegan Proteins and PlantBuilt.
Incredibly impressive. Find out more below.
Name: Dani Taylor
Age and DOB: 32 years old, 2/16/1986
Current residence: Haverhill, MA USA
Years as a vegan: 15 years vegan, 6 years prior vegetarian
Current occupation: Online bodybuilding coach
How long have you been vegan and what prompted you to make the decision?
I’ve been vegan for 15 years. I went vegetarian at 12 years old after seeing a lobster get cooked in a pot. It was very traumatic for me and I swore I wouldn’t eat animals anymore. While writing a research paper my senior year of high school, I stumbled across a website that explained the connectedness of the meat industry to the dairy and egg industries and how cruel those industries also were. I went vegan overnight then!
I didn’t go vegan for my health, but it’s worth noting that when I went vegan I was 210 pounds, and going vegan is what kickstarted my weight-loss (I lost 30 pounds without trying!) and my fitness journey as a whole leading to 90 pounds and building significant muscle!
I eat a very well rounded vegan diet consisting of a good combination of cooked and raw foods, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, seitan and mock meats with occasional treats and meals out. I follow a flexible dieting approach all year long which means I follow macros whether I am prepping for a bodybuilding show or in an off season muscle building phase.
Favourite sports/fitness experience?
My favourite moments in sports is when Team PlantBuilt meets up once every other year. We walk in wearing our “Vegan Muscle Team” hoodies about 60 people strong and people always snicker at us – the weird vegan group, right? And then we split up into our respective sports (bodybuilding, powerlifting, kettlebell, crossfit, and olympic lifting) and go dominate our competitions. By the end of the day, people are o longer laughing at us but instead are asking us to tell them more about the vegan lifestyle. It never ceases to be an amazing feeling.
How do you get through a difficult training session?
I actually have a motivation playlist on YouTube that I play into my headphones. It is a collection of movie quotes, athlete speeches, and inspiring epilogues put to epic soundtrack music. I pretend it’s playing as a soundtrack to my life and it gives me the drive to crush my training. This is a secret weapon for me and I only use it on days where I desperately need it!
What do you think is one of the biggest challenges to getting fit and healthy and how do you recommend people tackle that challenge?
I think the biggest challenge for most people is feeling like they need to do everything 100% from day one. I recommend people set really small goals and make them into habits every day. Starting with small goals (like “I will walk around the block every day at lunch” or “I will always eat a big serving of vegetables with dinner”) allows people to feel accomplished while building up their health with micro habits. Micro habits compound over time to make huge changes and they can be stacked on each other to reach very lofty goals while not getting to overwhelmed.
I have really eclectic taste in music so this changes constantly. I actually have playlists based on how hard my training will be and how hyped I need to be! So my playlists get more intense as my training intensifies and then I listen to podcasts during my deload weeks.
Can you tell us a bit about Plant Built and Vegan Proteins?
PlantBuilt is a non-profit team of vegan strength athletes. We compete in bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, kettlebell and olympic lifting. We compete at large competitions to prove that vegans can be just as strong and competitive as non vegans. We raise money and awareness for animal rights.
Vegan Proteins originally started as the world’s first vegan supplement store! But over the last ten years it has evolved to a company that coaches vegan athletes and creates educational content for the community.
What are you currently training/preparing for?
I am just now transitioning into off season from an eleven month bodybuilding prep where I competed five times in figure. My goals this off season are to build muscle all over and to increase performance while keeping a healthy mindset towards food and my body.
What are your top three tips for new vegans?
1) Err on the side of eating more than you think you need. Many vegan foods are less calorie dense than non vegan foods and the number one reason I see people give up on veganism is that they felt crappy because they weren’t eating enough.
2) Make it fun! I remember when I went vegan, I had never seen a mango or an avocado. I treated every trip to the supermarket like a field trip to try new foods and learn to cook them. This was so much fun (I still do this when I travel!) and I not eat a MUCH wider variety of foods than I ever did before I was vegan.
3) Find a community. Going vegan can be very isolating when your friends and family are not vegan, but finding a community either in person or online can be very empowering and can help you stick with it long term.